At least three Chilton County School employees are now being asked to return their salaries

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CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) – WBRC has learned that there are now at least three employees at Chilton Co. School who have received letters telling them they have been overpaid by the school district.

AEA representative Tracy LeSieur said the third was a bus driver and received a similar letter to the other women in January, saying it was overpaid by the district. We are working to learn more about his situation. But WBRC also learns more about Shellie Smith, who is the second staff member to call in after receiving a letter.

LeSieur said Smith started out as a nurse for the district but became a teacher in 2018 and her salary was allegedly not entered correctly into the system, as was the first employee who received a letter.

“She wasn’t aware it wasn’t the right amount until she received her certified letter,” LeSieur said. “I don’t know if they were given a pay scale or if they just said, ‘That’s what you’re going to earn in this position and they said okay.’ In both cases it was a raise.”

LeSieur said for dining room manager Christie Payne that the pay scale is different as a support staff member. Her letter said she owed more than $22,000.

“They don’t have a state pay matrix and they’re paid locally, and it’s all decided locally,” LeSieur said. “In Chilton County, they pay teachers the state matrix. Based on years of experience and letters received by these two employees, it is said that they were paid for experience in that position that they did not have.”

But for Smith, her salary is determined by the state.

“The state funds as many teachers per school based on numbers,” LeSieur said. “So, the district reports to the state, ‘I have a teacher with 11 years of experience and her master’s degree, and according to the state matrix, that’s what she does.’ So if she is a funded teacher, the state sends that money to the district for her salary.”

AEA’s attorneys review documents from employees’ cases to determine if they are legally obligated to return the money. LeSieur said it could depend on when the district was last audited and whether it was looking for payroll discrepancies.

“Depending on when the last audit was done and what they were looking for, going through everyone’s personnel files and years of experience and comparing payrolls. I don’t know if that was done two years ago, or I don’t think it was done two years ago because I don’t think it would take two years to bring that to the attention of the staff.”

LeSieur said they don’t know if any other employees are overpaid, but she suggests making sure your paycheck matches your pay agreement.

“Pull up her paycheck, look at her gross salary and match it with her years of experience,” she said. “Make sure it matches your district pay table.”

WBRC contacted the Alabama Department of Education for more information on how frequently schools are screened and for comment on the case of these employees, but received no response.

To update: A recent statement from the Chilton County Board of Education said, “We cannot comment on specific personnel matters. The Chilton County Board of Education recently discovered several overpayments. These overpayments date back several years and were initiated prior to the tenure of the current Treasury Department, Superintendent and Board of Directors. Board policy and the law require directors to recover any overpayments.

We recognize the financial impact this matter may have on our employees and we are working to reconcile that impact with our obligation to recover the funds.”

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